THE Royal Australasian College of Physicians is leading the call for a global day of action on the health impacts of climate change.
The aim of the day — to be held next Monday, 12 October — is to build international momentum ahead of the United Nations 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, with doctors and other health professionals uniting to call for real climate action.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has developed a global consensus statement on the health impacts of climate change and has invited medical organisations from around the world to endorse the statement.
It emphasises the need for countries to urgently implement mitigation and adaptation measures to minimise the adverse health effects of climate change and to assist low-income countries to do so.
On 12 October, the RACP will promote the Consensus Statement, calling on world leaders to commit to meaningful action on climate change and will continue that push until the Paris Climate Change Conference in December.
At that conference, world leaders will gather to negotiate a global agreement to limit the risk of dangerous climate change. This is a critical time in the history of humanity. As US President Barack Obama stated at a recent UN climate change summit: “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last to be able to do something about it”.
Dr Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, will launch the RACP’s “Doctors for Climate Action” website on 8 October. Doctors will be able to visit the doctorsforclimateaction.org website when it goes live to add their name in support of the Consensus Statement and to share facts about the health impacts of climate change via social media.
Why should doctors take action?
The links between climate change and health are clear. The increase in extreme weather events such as floods, bushfires and heatwaves are already taking their toll.
As global temperatures rise, disruption to agriculture, increased water insecurity and sea level rises will adversely affect our health. Carbon emissions contribute to air pollution levels, which according to the WHO are responsible for 7 million premature deaths annually.
Earlier this year, The Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health released its second report on the health impacts of climate change. The first report, released in 2009, described climate change as “The biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.
The second report confirmed this, and also identified the many health benefits of taking action, saying “Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.
We must seize that opportunity to protect our health and our climate.
Convincing world leaders to commit to significant action on climate change requires support from citizens. Understanding the health impacts of climate change is an important motivator for people to call for action.
The media has a key role to play in delivering this message, with doctors providing a credible voice in support.
Doctors have always played a key role in advocating for important changes to protect the health of citizens. Given the health impacts of climate change, it is natural that doctors should advocate for action.
The Consensus Statement and the global day of action provide a platform for all doctors to show their support for global climate action.
Join us on 12 October to add your name to the call, share the message on social media and ensure world leaders sit up and take notice of the urgent need for action on the health impacts of climate change.
Associate Professor Linda Selvey is a councillor on the RACP’s Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine and is the director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, at Curtin University.